You’re So Agile! Implementing Agile… in a Sales Team?

My job here at AccuRev involves working as an “Agile Evangelist,” and along with the other Evangelists on my team, we have appropriately named ourselves “Team AgileCycle.”  Prior to our AgileCycle product launch, AccuRev took a company initiative to bring Agile into every part of the business.  The idea was to bring an educational awareness of Agile process to all of our teams by implementing basic Agile practices.  ”Team AgileCycle” was responsible for bringing Agile to the sales team, so our salespeople could have a taste of what Agile development was really all about.

(I should point out that we do realize sales organizations and development organizations are vastly different, and certain Agile practices can’t be applied to a sales cycle. But we did see great opportunities to pick up Scrum methodologies and usefully apply them to help within our sales organization.  Some of the changes we made do not qualify as not “pure” Agile, or even best practices, but the point of this exercise was to expose our team to some of the things software developers are doing in the real world.)

Implementing Agile Step 1: Sales Scrum Training

At AccuRev, we subjected our sales organization to Certified Scrum Training. In this training we walked our team through the different phases of Scrum: planning sessions, standups, and retrospectives.  We even exposed the sales team to planning poker when walking them through typical development cycle.

Implementing Agile Step 2: Implement Sales Standups

The next step was to take what we learned, and actually implement it.  At AccuRev, we now have multiple standups with our sales team, in order to obtain feedback quickly and learn what our customers are saying in the field about AgileCycle.

Implementing Agile Step 3: Mark Out Sprint and Retrospectives.

In the sales team, this is simple. Our iteration is once a quarter.  I would never suggest a development team implement this long of a sprint, but for sales it works. At the end of the sprint we got together and performed a retrospective, which discussed results for each territory, reviews of our processes, and brainstorming for the next quarter.

Implementing Agile Step 4: The Task Board

In the “Team AgileCycle headquarters,” we maintain a task board. Here we take all of our goals and tasks for the quarter, and mark them out asImplementing Agile: The Task Board “backlog,” “in progress,” and “complete.”  (We’re still working on how to measure our story points, but the basic process is that we plan our backlog with our quarterly goals. When something else comes up, we fill the backlog with those tasks.)

And even though this task board seams simple, it actually wields a lot of power and has become a great tool in organizing our work.

What has surprised me the most during the whole implementation process is just how well the sales cycle seems to match specific Agile methodologies already. Think about this:

We already built in an iteration time: 1 quarter

We had planned velocity already: Sales to make this quarter

We inspected and adapted: If the numbers were not met we wanted to understand why. If we weren’t on velocity we changed course.

We had Scrum meetings before it was called “Scrum”: Weekly status and impediment meetings.

Burnup chart: Heck, the sales meter in Salesforce could even be compared to a burn up.

So after all of this, my question is:  Are sales teams “naturally” Agile because of their business? How similar is a highly functioning sales organization to a highly functioning Agile Development Organization? What do you think?

Posted in: AccuRev, Agile, AgileCycle, Best Practices, Enterprise Agile, Humor, SCM Resources, Scrum, Tips and Tricks

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  1. David March 31, 2011

    I would love to learn more about what happened with the sales team and other not technology functions.

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